The Pika is a small mammal, most closely related to the rabbit or hare. Pikas are usually around 6-10 inches in length and less than a pound in weight with round ears and no visible tail. Located throughout Asia, sections of British Columbia and the western United States, the Pika can be found throughout the world. Pikas are most comfortable living in mountainous, rocky areas. They are most well-adapted for living in these areas, because they use the terrain as a form of protection and cover from predators. A Pika's diet mainly consists of grass, roots and other small plant stuffs. Throughout the summer months, Pikas tirelessly collect their food and store them for the winter months. Pikas are known as "ecosystem engineers" for their ability to store such substantial amounts of food. Pikas live in elaborate, close knit colonies. The members of these colonies take on the task of protecting their homes and food from predators and thieves. The Pika is well-known for its organized defense system against predators. Pikas take terms serving as watchmen for their colony. When a threat is spotted, the Pika will let out an audible warning to the others, which indicates the necessity for cover and protection.
Though the Pika is a very small and mostly self-sufficient animal, it has been discovered that they are greatly impacted by the effects of global warming. In the Great Basin area, local populations of the Pika have become extinct; it is believed that this is due to global warming. Pikas are vulnerable to global warming because of the cool, mountain areas that they inhabit. Rising temperatures, which are a result of increased CO2 levels, cause the Pika to frantically search for cooler places to live. This is not easy for the Pika because options for migration are slim. The Pika could not go to low valley areas, because they would not be able to maintain the protective networks that allow them to thrive in mountain areas.
Unlike other small rodent sized animals, the Pika does not burrow underground, which would allow relief from increasing temperatures. Additionally, the Pika has a thick coat of fur, designed for the low temperatures of winter months, which are not capable of easily dissipating heat. The vast threat caused by global warming is met with other threats such as proximity to roads and decreasing size in habitat. Scientists believe that the combination of these factors may lead to more risk of Pika extinction in the future. The absence of the Pika from habitats would have a negative effect to the entire ecosystem that they inhabit. Pikas are vital sources of food for hawks, eagles and weasels.